Midnight Social Club Brings Musical Farewell to Jazz Depot Friday
The SummerStage theater festival, that Tulsa audiences first met the four fictional ladies who provided the entertainment at a not-quite-first class 1930s bistro called the Midnight Social Club. Played by top Tulsa vocalists Cindy Cain (as club owner Violett Redd), Rebecca Ungerman (Garnett McGee), Pam Van Dyke Crosby (Stella Moon), and Annie Ellicott (Little Ruby) in a production calledBackstage at the Midnight Social Club, the characters proved to be so popular that they appeared in a second production, Onstage at the Midnight Social Club, and have performed occasionally in various configurations at Tulsa venues ever since.
Now, however, the Midnight Social Club appears to be shutting its doors for good. As Crosby notes, “Violett’s selling the club, Garnett’s going back on the road, Little Ruby’s moving to the big city, and Stella’s marrying her longtime boyfriend, Doghouse Bill.”
It is, at least partially, a case of art imitating life. Stella’s betrothed, who’s also the bassist in the Midnight Social Club band, is in real life Bill Crosby, Pam’s husband. And Ellicott really is moving away from Tulsa, something that comes as a blow to area jazz fans.
“Annie’s moving to San Francisco,” says Pam. “And even though she may be coming back from time to time, we probably won’t get a chance to do this again. So this will be the last time to see the four of us together doing the material from both of those shows, Backstage and Onstage.”
Hence the name of Friday’s production, The Midnight Social Club – Last Chance. Pam stresses, however, that the Jazz Depot production is less a play than a show and dance.
“We’re going to act like our characters, but we’re just going to have a few lines,” she explains. “It’s going to be a show, but it’s also for dancing. We’ll be doing swing and Latin andfoxtrots. Since the club setting is in the 1930s, the songs we’re doing are from that era, except that there are a couple of originals.”
Chances are good that one of those originals will be the Cain-penned number that brought all the ladies of the Midnight Social Club together in the first place.
“P. Casey Morgan wrote the original script for The Midnight Social Club,” she says, “Cindy Cain had wanted all of us to work together, and she wrote an opening song and had the idea for us all to be in a club. Then, we all kind of wrote our own characters and came up with the names and the name of the club.
“Violett Redd was the owner of the club, and when she took it over, she called my character, Stella Moon. I was a singer doing things in another town. Then, a friend of hers just kind of showed up one day and asked for a job. That was Garnett, played by Rebecca. So the three of us were singing together in the Midnight Social Club – which was, well, a little less than an A-1 nightclub.”
“Then, unexpectedly, Little Ruby showed up. Violett Redd was her aunt, and she’d run away from home because her parents wanted her to marry a local pig farmer. She came to town and sang `Real Cowboy Girl’ and then got changed and became more sophisticated.”
In addition to the four vocalists playing those parts, all of the musicians involved in Friday’s production of The Midnight Social Club – Last Chance were on board for the first show back in 2008. They include Jeff Newsome on piano, Wade Robertson on drums, and “Doghouse Bill” Crosby on bass.
Those players also appeared on the original-cast CD, Backstage at the Midnight Social Club,which will be available for purchase at Friday’s show.
The Midnight Social Club – Last Chance, presented by Sweet and Hot Productions, is set to begin at 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 4, at the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame, located in downtown Tulsa’sJazz Depot, 111 E. First Street. The show is presented in conjunction with the Brady Arts District’s First Friday Art Crawl. Admission is $10 at the door, with advance tickets available from Bettie Downing at 918-281-8609.